Wisconsin loses sixth assistant coach

January, 19, 2012
1/19/12
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When Wisconsin offensive coordinator Matt Canada met with reporters Wednesday, he didn't mask his excitement about his new gig.

"This isn't recruiting talk," Canada told reporters. "This is a place -- you can call my best friends, you can call anybody you want -- I wanted to be."

[+] EnlargeBret Bielema
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesWisconsin coach Bret Bielema will try to win a third straight Big Ten title in 2012 with a new-look coaching staff.
That's good news for the Badgers, especially since some are questioning how appealing it is to work for Wisconsin right now.

DeMontie Cross on Thursday became the sixth assistant coach from Bret Bielema's staff to leave Wisconsin in the past few weeks. Cross, who spent the 2011 season as Wisconsin's safeties coach/special teams coordinator, is leaving to coach linebackers on Charlie Weis' staff at Kansas.

What should we make of all the coaching departures from Madison?

When viewed individually, most if not all the departures make sense. Offensive coordinator Paul Chryst left for a head-coaching job (Pitt). Offensive line coach Bob Bostad and linebackers coach Dave Huxtable left to become coordinators for Chryst. Tight ends coach Joe Rudolph became Chryst's assistant head coach and returns to his native Pennsylvania. Wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander made a lateral move to Arizona State, but he's a Los Angeles native who spent much of his career on the West Coast.

Cross is leaving to coach a position (linebacker) he oversaw from 2007-10 with the NFL's Buffalo Bills. He's a St. Louis native who played at Missouri, so he'll be closer to home at KU. He also has been a bit of a job-hopper lately, spending a few weeks on Purdue's staff last winter before taking the Wisconsin job.

So you can make good cases why each coach left Wisconsin. But the entirety of it -- six coaches leaving a team that has won back-to-back Big Ten titles and reached back-to-back Rose Bowls -- is highly unusual.

Usually when six coaches are departing a staff in the same year, the head coach is part of the group. Bielema, meanwhile, is extremely secure in Madison, having built Wisconsin into a new Big Ten power.

Assistants typically want stability (i.e. Penn State) and would rather remain with a proven winner.

Bielema has hired two offensive assistants (Canada and receivers coach Zach Azzanni) and reportedly has found Huxtable's replacement (Nevada's Andy Buh). He now needs to add three more assistants to his 2012 staff.

Although coaches like to see their assistants succeed elsewhere, they also value continuity, which usually translates into success. Penn State and Iowa have had few changes until this year, and Mark Dantonio has kept his staff together for the most part at Michigan State.

Bielema might just be unlucky to lose so many assistants at once, but so much staff turnover often has consequences, at least in the short term. As Bielema continues to interview assistants, he needs to look for guys who can coach, who can recruit and who want to be in Madison for a little while.

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